South Africa: When Human Rights Are Trampled, the Public Holiday Is Another Thursday to Wear Black


We celebrate Human Rights Day on 21 March. On this public holiday when people will be taking a break from their regular activities - perhaps visiting friends, catching up on sleep or doing chores - how many of us will pause to reflect on why we have a day like this at all?

We commemorate Human Rights Day precisely because our country, for much of this past century, has not honoured people's right to dignity, freedom and safety. And one only has to look at the shocking statistics released every year by the South African Police Force regarding rape and other forms of gender-based violence to realise that human rights violations are not a thing of the past. Human rights are gender rights after all.

This year Human Rights Day falls on a Thursday. A couple of months ago at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Theology, a few of us started to wear black as part of the Thursdays in Black movement, which is a World Council of Churches initiative to end gender-based violence.

Every week there are more of us, with positive peer pressure and conscientisation drawing an increasing number of lecturers, staff and students who are all starting to...

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